Article

Linux and french fries -- a real happy meal

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

French fries and Linux. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it is a tasty combination for agribusiness J.R. Simplot Co.

The Boise, Idaho-based company supplies, among other things, french fries to most of the McDonald's fast-food restaurants in the Midwest. Its Web and development server farm, meanwhile, is a place where Linux grows wild with a little help from VMware Inc.'s virtualization software.

Simplot technology analyst Tony Adams said his company currently runs eight Linux VMware GSX servers (running Red Hat Linux 7.3) with 26 virtual instances of Linux and 37 of Windows. Adams plans to deploy three more Linux GSX servers within three months that will host up to 30 more virtual Linux and Windows guests.

Simplot has experienced between 5-to-1 to 7-to-1 hardware and licensing savings using the Linux VMware combination, Adams estimates.

"The manageability is huge, particularly in time-to-provision servers," Adams said. "I can respond to a request for a new server within a day and do it within hours, rather than ordering new servers from [Hewlett-Packard Co.] The ability to duplicate environments, cloning one virtual machine to another in a matter of minutes, is a common operation for us."

VMware software brings mainframe-style virtualization to Intel x86 architectures. Its GSX enterprise-class servers help companies do server partitioning and consolidate environments. Its ESX servers do the same for high-performance

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computing environments.

"The amount of physical hardware we're buying has shrunk. We can deploy 100 guests on 11 hosts [nine or 10 virtual machines on each server]," Adams said. "The organization benefits in terms of ROI are tremendous. This is the coolest technology in this space that I have seen. This has been on the 390 [IBM's/390 mainframe] forever. This brings Intel to that type of capabilities."

Adams said he is able to move a Web server, for example, from one host to another in 20 minutes.

"Running it on Linux is great. I have been able to manage provisioning servers, moving environments around, do capacity-on-demand, with a command-line tool," Adams said. "From a guest perspective, the advantage of using Linux is the ease of provisioning. It allows us to deploy and develop on a test environment that we would normally need more hardware to do."

Adams also points out server consolidation and business continuity advantages using Linux on VMware.

"We were able to migrate 50 physical machines on VMware. The amount of rack space we've reclaimed has been phenomenal," Adams said. "We had more than 250 Intel hosts and cut that to around 200. We reclaimed five racks' worth of hardware."

J.R. Simplot does not use VMware for business continuity, Adams said. "But I can imagine taking images of virtual machines and quickly restoring it at a target data center offsite," he said.

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